Summer days off call for staycations for this New Yorker. Wandering unfamiliar neighborhoods often results in discovering strange exotic ingredients and specialties readily available to satisfy the cravings of home for the inhabitants who have immigrated from a far away land. Last weekends destination was Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, aka Little Odessa, easily accessable on the B or Q train and filled with a taste of Russia’s flavorful culture.
Lucky for me I had A Russian friend to guide me on my journey through the mountains of sausage, tinned fish, dumplings, savory pies, farmers cheeses and bizarre beverages tempting me at every market on the main drag.
Best Buy International Food Company offered up the best selection of everything, including more cured meats than I could count, an impressive amount of beer and other liquid refreshment, including Tarragon soda, a Georgian treat that my friend explained is Russia’s version of Mt. Dew. We left with bags filled spilling over with exotic treats, including two bottles of the herbal soda to experiment with later.
Varenichnaya, our second stop, is a must visit for dumpling lovers! Specializing in succulent skewers of grilled meat and vareniki (a light Russian dumpling boiled and sautéed in butter) this spot filled our bellies with a generous helping of little pockets of paper-thin dough filled with sauerkraut and potato. Chicken and lamb served on red-hot slivers of metal were a delicious steal at under $5 a piece.
Vareniki and Pelmeni ( a meat stuffed dumpling) are both available to go frozen in bags of fifty for under ten dollars. If you choose to dine in this spot is byob only.
Numerous other stops on the main drag offer up interesting visits including walls of Vodka, savory baked goods made by local ladies and a book store that stocks Russian nesting dolls featuring images of the band Queen and Elvis. Walk on the beach nearby to end a perfect day away, without ever leaving NYC.
Mix up one of my cocktails for a taste inspired by Brighton Beach! It’s a thirst quenching cooler perfect for summer nights in Brighton or the location of your choice.
Brighton Beach Cooler
In large glass over ice build-
2 oz Green tea infused Gin, I used this recipe
juice of one lime
juice of half lemon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces Tarragon soda, available online
Stir and top with splash of club soda or sparkling water